07 May 2020
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Courts to reopen – are masks, gloves and disinfectants the “new normal”?

Since the introduction of the state of emergency in Serbia on March 15, 2020, its judiciary has virtually been on a two-month hiatus. Back on March 19, 2020 the High Judicial Council (“HJC”) adopted the Conclusion postponing all court hearings until the cessation of the state of emergency, save for such proceedings where delays were not possible.


However, seeing that the National Assembly voted to rescind the national state of emergency on May 6, 2020, the HJC quickly jumped to action and issued a new conclusion on May 7, 2020, declaring that conditions were met for normalization of work of courts as of May 11, 2020 – naturally, in compliance with certain measures regulating employee and party conduct, aimed at protecting health and preventing further spread of the COVID-19.


Accordingly, in line with the HJC’s conclusion, court employees must disinfect hands and shoes when entering the court’s premises. Wearing protective masks is mandatory while wearing surgical gloves is advised. Strict regulations are in place also for airing the courtrooms and other facilities, as well as for maintaining physical distance between staff, whereas employees disrespecting these measures will be reprimanded or removed from the court’s premises.


Likewise, parties are also obligated to disinfect hands and shoes at the court’s entrance and must wear masks and gloves. Parties must also maintain physical distance of at least 1.5 meters while on-site.


The HJC’s conclusion also prescribes a special protocol for access to court hearings – access will be granted to persons based on priority and necessity of their presence at the hearing. Thus, priority will be given to defendants and their counsel, as well as other persons summoned by the court. Non- essential participants will be denied access to the courtroom in agreement with the presiding judge if conditions for safe mutual distance are not met.


Members of the Judicial Guard are tasked with implementing preventive health measures on the court’s premises, while these measures will be in place as of the date the courts reopen trat is May 11, 2020, until the COVID-19 epidemic in Serbia is rescinded.


The HCJ’s conclusion also leaves space for courts to organize their work in shifts, if needed, and it mandates that presidents of courts must promptly, but no later than May 8, 2020 adopt and publish rules of employee and party conduct on the court’s bulletin board and web-page.


For more information,  you can contact us at covid19@geciclaw.com.